Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
by Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens must have worn a lot of suits in his day. Don't get us wrong, but that must have been boring for such an imaginative man. But within the haunted house of "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock," he gets to play dress-up with his bodiless characters. He wants to add more and more colors and accessories to make his subjects fabulously fashionable. "Not enough!" The speaker then turns to shabby chic in describing what the sailor wears to bed. Apparently untraditional clothing leads to maddening dreams and fantasies. Even a dull nightgown could get in the way of imagination. The old sailor is asleep in his boots, so we can assume that he has the rest of his sailor get-up on. As a result of his clothing, the sailor dreams to the level that the speaker celebrates. Yar.
- Line 2: The nightgowns float about like ghosts in a bad haunted house. This is a figurative (meaning not literal) description of an everyday event. What you might not think about is how there are actually people under those nightgowns. This is a metonymy in that the white nightgowns seem to represent the boring people wearing them.
- Lines 4-6: Like the "basic" green, these are exaggerated images representing imaginative personas. You might think of them as visual hyperbole in that they are highly exaggerated. The speaker probably doesn't expect us to wear anything so strange. Also, those repeated phrases are an example of anaphora.
- Line 8: Socks of lace are regular gym socks times ten. They're the more feminine equivalent of argyle socks. In other words, they're snazzy, to say the least.
- Line 9: Ceintures is the French word for belts. They just sound more fashionable, don't you think?
- Line 13: Similar to the nightgowns, the sailor's boots almost act as metonymy. We write "almost," because the connection between the boots and dreams is implied while the nightgowns are more strongly connected to the dreams. Admittedly, this metonymy business can be a fuzzy area.